I talked a little bit about Essence’s Spring Break Tour last week, and I mentioned Orlando, FL as one of the places that we performed. There were many other aspects of the tour, including beautiful churches and people, that have stuck with me after our return to University Park.
I had not been to many of the cities in the south, and got to see Charleston, Raleigh, Savannah, and Atlanta for the first time. On top of that, all of the churches that we performed in were all-black churches, which I had also not experienced before. It was an eye-opening experience to visit these places and see specific aspects of them that I didn’t know existed
Apart from the places and people, I learned a lot about the importance of relationships. Every one of our performances at high schools and churches was made possible because Dr. Leach (our director) knew them personally and had maintained a relationship with them. Many were Alumni of the choir, or colleagues of his. After prolonged performances, Dr. Leach asks us to write a reflection and he also sends his own thoughts to us. In his missive he wrote that “Every performance destination occurred as a result of the marvelous relationships that I enjoy with people across the USA.”
That importance, of not just remembering someone’s face or name from an experience that you shared, but knowing what is going on in another person’s life and maintaining a connection makes a significant difference. The ability to maintain such a vast network of relationships at that level has always been a quality of Dr. Leach’s that has impressed me, but time and time again I see the massive benefits of it.
The video below is another result of those relationships. Dr. Leach’s close friend Tony McNiell, who had hosted the choir in years past at his previous church in Charlotte, NC, and now is the artistic director at Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, GA invited us to perform at Ebenezer’s service to start our tour. This church is significant because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father were co-pastors there until his death, following which his funeral was held at Ebenezer.
This Gospel piece, “Hallelujah” was performed by the MLK choir during the service, until Essence figured out our parts and joined in (where this video starts).